Estimote have been creating super pretty Bluetooth beacons since 2013, helping spot the location of people and their phones in indoor situations. They’ve got a new LTE beacon that can report its indoor and outdoor position, so I asked Jakub Krzych, CEO & Co-Founder of Estimote, to give us the lowdown.

The new LTE Estimote Beacon with its LTE-M/NB-IoT, GPS and Bluetooth radios

The new LTE Estimote Beacon with its LTE-M/NB-IoT, GPS and Bluetooth radios 

“The Estimote LTE Beacon makes it easy for developers to build IoT apps using JavaScript. They can access one of the three radios (LTE-M/NB-IoT, GPS and Bluetooth) as well as built-in sensors to create a device that can compute its indoor/outdoor position and last years on the battery.” — Jakub Krzych

Regular beacons communicated the position of people and their devices, but required other devices (like smartphones) to be the ones to pass the beacons themselves to register their last known location. With LTE beacons, they can send messages straight to the cloud and communicate their own location too, as Jakub explains,

“The key difference between LTE Beacon and our other Bluetooth Beacons is that the device can talk directly to the cloud using the latest low power LTE IoT networks.”

It also has another pretty exciting aspect to it, Jakub points out that another key difference with their LTE beacons is that they are also “fully programmable as a device as our other beacons were only configurable.”

It’s also crazy simple to get started, I imagined a process of needing to purchase SIM cards for everything and get them connected, but it turns out they’re ready to go out of the box, SIM card and all!

“LTE Beacons are shipped in the Development Kits and have SIM cards built-in, so they work out of the box” — Jakub Krzych

Specs!

Estimote's specs

Estimote’s specs!

The specs for those who want the techie stuff:

  • Low-power 32-bit ARM Cortex-M4 CPU with floating point unit (FPU) running at 64 MHz
  • 1MB flash with cache onboard and 256KB RAM supporting over-the-air (OTA) firmware updates
  • An additional ARM CryptoCell co-processor with a full AES 128-bit suite as well as a true random number generator for full entropy and asymmetric/symmetric hashing cryptographic services
  • A low-power LTE IoT modem equipped with an ARM Cortex A7 (1.3 GHz) that can support 5G-ready protocols such as LTE Cat-M1 and Cat-NB1
  • 2.4 GHz radio that can support the latest Bluetooth 5.0 standard and 802.15.4-based protocols such as Thread and ANT
  • An additional amplifier (+20 dB) for extended range of packet advertising (200m)
  • A low-power satellite signal receiver supporting American GPS, European Galileo, Russian GLONASS, Chinese BeiDou, and Japanese QZSS
  • Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery lasting 2 years on default settings
  • USB-C compatible with USB 2.0 for fast charging
  • NFC-A programmable tag supporting NFC Type 2 and Type 4
  • 3-axis accelerometer
  • Programmable push button for specific use-cases such as alerts
  • Programmable RGB LEDs
  • Temperature sensor

Use cases for LTE beacons

LTE beacons have three main use cases over existing beacons out there:

  • GPS indoor/outdoor trackers — they can report the position of high value items you’re looking to track — both at a localised level (e.g. in a warehouse or home) and at a more global level with satellite systems (perfect for asset tracking).
  • Cloud connected gateways — due to their fully programmable nature, they can collect data from other sensors and/or flash configuration.
  • Remotely managed beacons — Jakub points out that “they can finally act as remotely managed beacons triggering proximity-based actions on the phones nearby”.

Developing for the Estimote LTE Beacon

The LTE beacons can be programmed to do all sorts of things using Estimote’s Web IDE — no need to download software, it’s all in the browser with an editor providing syntax highlighting and auto-completion. They’ve also got a simple power-consumption profiler built-in.

Estimote's web-based IDE

Estimote’s web-based IDE

The JavaScript code is then validated and turned into bytecode flashed onto your LTE beacon.

In addition to the device code, developers can also create anonymous Lambda functions. In this scenario, the Lambda function will wait for events reported by the device and then will process them sending data to pre-programmed end-points. This means that developers can quickly prototype simple IoT apps without the need to establish AWS/Heroku instances!

You can find out more about Estimote’s new LTE beacons on their website — with the first dev kits shipping in September with a free 3-month subscription plan. Thank you to Jakub Krzych for taking the time to give us info on their new beacons!

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